“Oni… hmm… Ane… no-no… Ani…?” – One day, while eating a sandwich in a coffee shop, I was trying to call to mind the Japanese word for “rain”. Honestly, I was much better at eating the sandwich than remembering Japanese words. Finally, the meal was over and it started to rain, as if trying to give me a clue, but I just couldn’t recall it. Today I am happy that on that day I didn’t give in and look the word up in the dictionary, but made an effort to understand how I can improve my process of memorization. And at that moment I realized that I should look for associations in order to retrieve the words more easily from my brain.
I motioned to the waiter, saying “I have a challenge here, I’d better order dessert.” “Ame!”- I exclaimed through a mouthful of cake. Ame! There was torrential “ame” outside, the taste of the cake, the Japanese word popping up into my head – this was a moment of pure happiness! Having been in this state for about five minutes, my brain came back to earth. “So, let’s think!” – I commanded myself – “invent an association immediately before I forget it again.”
Okay, the Japanese word “ame” reminds me phonetically of the Russian expression “a me”, which means “What about us?” in English. Half was done – I found a close sound to the word I wanted to remember. Now I had to find meaningful connections between them. The first association that jumped into my head was this – I live in Israel, and there is no rain in the summer, only violent heat and excessive humidity. I imagined standing in the middle of the Dead Sea in August and raising my hands to heaven, uttering a plaintive “What about us?!” Ha-ha!
I was smiling, knowing that this time I wasn’t going to forget such crazy imagery. In other words, I wouldn’t forget the Japanese “ame” anymore. Right away, I made another list of 20 Japanese words and did the same manipulation with my memory. I remember them all to this day. It’s a really cool method!
A year later, I found an article about this method, which is called mnemonics techniques. These techniques were invented by ancient Greeks and have been successfully used for different purposes in modern times.
It’s by far the best way to learn words and have them stick in your brain. I’ve tried and tested this method through years of learning and teaching foreign languages, and shared this secret to memorizing thousands of new difficult words with my friends, students, colleagues, and my own teachers. Now I’m sharing it with you by creating LoLo!